The Flower Kings – Islands: Album Review

The Flower Kings don’t feel the need to stem their creative juices as the inspiration, the muse has struck again and seen them craft a broad musical journey with Islands.

Release date: 30th October 2020

Label: Inside Out Music

Formats : CD / DL / LP

Less than a year since we had Waiting For Miracles album (our review here) we get a new offering from The Flower Kings. Clearly in a rich vein of form and with a steady line up behind the core of Stolt, Froberg and Reingold, they’re clearly making the most of opportunities to make music.

The two discs cover an hour and a half of music. If Islands were to make The Album Years for 2020) podcast, Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness would say “it’s too long” – their optimal album length of 37-40 minutes passes by with a mere eight tacks under the belt. Some would be more judicious with the editing and slap the additional music on as a ‘bonus disc’ which often lessens the impact and by default, almost classes the extra music as second rate and not quite good enough to make the main album.

Progressive music fans expectant of a set of standard Flower Kings epics – they’ve done more than their fair share – might be shocked at the mass of shorter songs! Twenty one of them. Not that Stolt & Co have avoided the more driect pieces in the past, just that on Islands, the focus has shifted from the lengthy workouts. Here’s the rub though as we’re toled Islands is “all tailored to be listened to as one piece.” That’s more like it!

Apart from a glorious nine and a half minutes on Solaris that includes the guitar solo of the album that accompanies a choral passage which sees the FKs at their most Hackett-like, we’re into a less charted territory. Breathing in the rarified air that comes in bursts of more direct and curtailed songs that skirt and dip into a whole bag full of musical styles.

Some combinations exist where you can see they could have easily been stitched together into longer pieces (Roine made an album like that with Jon Anderson) but for once, they’ve applied the brakes, pressed stop and moved on.

They’ve always existed towards the prog Rock fringes with their jazzy overtones with a little bit of funk and soul thrown in for good measure. Add some topical comment – “You can see half the world starving while the other half lost their marbles” crops up in the nursery rhyme swing and Weather Report style fusion on Serpentine. It’s followed, probably quite deliberately by a solemn Hackt/Procol-ish Looking For Answers…

Short bursts/vignettes offer a minute to two intervals between the songs as the styles shift from The Beatles dabbling with Country and Western shuffles to cool jazziness and the more traditional sweeps of keys and Stolt guitar that challenges Gilmour and Hackett as one of the most melodic in Prog as well as making you wonder if Brian May has nipped into the studio at some point.

The peaceful easy feeling of The Flower Kings lulling to us at a time when we’re all like the Islands of the title. I guess the world is still waiting for miracles. For now, we can get lost with some quivering and quirky progressive sounds on Islands.

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